Capillary supply and mitochondrial content of different skeletal muscle fiber types in untrained and endurance-trained men. A histochemical and ultrastructural study

Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1979 Feb 15;40(3):197-209. doi: 10.1007/BF00426942.


The number of capillaries per fiber, per mm2, around each fiber type and relative to fiber area was determined in six untrained subjects (UT) and six elite cross-country skiers (ET). Average values for maximal oxygen uptake were 49.8 ml . kg-1 . min-1 (UT) and 77.9 ml . kg-1 . min-1 (ET). Type I fibers constituted 39.2% (UT) and 68.6% (ET), type II A fibers 39.6% (UT) and 19.2% (ET), while 12.8% (UT) and 6.6% (ET) of the fibers were type II B. The mean fiber area for the type II A fibers was significantly greater (p less than 0.01) than the areas for type I and II B in the untrained group. The average numbers of capillaries around each fiber type (CA) were 4.76-4.84-2.94 (UT) and 7.79-6.63-4.5 (ET) for type I, II A, and II B, respectively. There was a significant difference (p less than 0.01) in the CA values relative to fiber area for all fiber types in both groups, being highest for type I and lowest for type II B. The CA increased linearly with increasing size of the fibers for all fiber types in both groups. The mitochondrial content was determined semiquantitatively for each fiber type. The differences in capillary supply between the fiber types are accompanied by similar differences in mitochondrial content. The results indicate that endurance training increases the capillary supply of all fiber types in the human quadriceps muscle. The fact that light microscopical studies have given lower capillarization values than those obtained with the electron microscope is discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Capillaries / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mitochondria, Muscle*
  • Muscles / anatomy & histology*
  • Muscles / blood supply
  • Muscles / ultrastructure
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Physical Endurance
  • Skiing
  • Sports Medicine*